The Limits of Soccer for Development: Xhosa Maradona and the “Hand of God”

On October 27, 2016, FSF welcomed Dr. Tarminder Kaur (University of the Free State) for a discussion of her paper: “AmaXhosa Maradona: Global Icons, Local Following and Soccer Talent as a Gift and Curse for South African Youth.”

This ethnographic exploration of soccer and development in the rural Western Cape of South Africa sparked a critique of sport-for-development programs and highlighted the human drama of “Maradona” (aka Abongile Qobisa), a talented footballer with a promising future who died tragically at the age of 19. The paper is part of an evolving book-length manuscript that grapples not just with sports, but also with broader themes such as the history of agricultural labor migration, regimes of labor extraction in South African “Homelands”, and structural, interpersonal, everyday, and “invisible” forms of violence.

“What a privilege this was to have such engaged scholars to read my paper,” said Dr. Kaur after the session. “It is this kind of engagement that every scholar craves. It was not only gratifying, the discussion and conversations [also] gave me so much to work with to improve this paper.”

In addition to the author, participants in the forum included: Emmanuel Yolo Thoba, Danyel Reiche, Andrew Guest, Alejandro Gonzalez, Gerard Akindes, Chris Bolsmann, Tom McCabe, Itamar Dubinsky, Hikabwa Chipande, Alex Galarza, and Peter Alegi.

Listen to the audio here.